A Cinecle View – An Open Letter to The A&E Network

Dear A&E Network,

I’ve been vexed by something for months but just haven’t had the time to get it off my chest before now. So, as I sit here riding out the last remnants of a hangover, I’m going to take a moment to unburden my brain.

When you air syndicated repeat episodes of Criminal Minds, why do you edit out the words “damn”, “bitch” and “ass”?

Is it for the children? I mean, that seems sort of noble considering that you run these episodes from 11 am to 3 pm EST on Saturdays and 7 am to 1 pm EST on Sundays – times when children may be watching TV or (more likely) taking off their headphones because their smartphone battery is dead, and are subsequently susceptible to catching stray swears in their hearing holes.

Clearly we can’t count on all parents to actually parent by policing the media that their children are consuming, so it’s good that you’re here to pick up the slack and protect everyone’s kids from low-caliber, garden-variety profanity that they probably already hear (and maybe even use themselves) daily in their own homes and at school. But whatever; it takes a village, and you’re part of the village, so I guess the rest of the village should probably just applaud your effort.

But what puzzles me, though, is that with all of the energy that you expend protecting hypothetically virgin ears from the “a”, “b” and “d” words, you, like the aforementioned non-parenting parents, seem mind-blowingly unconcerned with all of the other things that they could see and hear during a typical episode of Criminal Minds, like …

  • Bombings
  • Amputations
  • Family annihilations
  • People burned to death
  • Suffocations
  • Drownings
  • Enucleations
  • Cannibalism
  • Death by weaponized disease
  • Human trafficking
  • Disembowelments
  • A reenactment of The Deadliest Game
  • Beheadings
  • Body disposal via feasting pigs
  • The visually graphic aftermath of a shotgun suicide
  • The main protagonist (re; the good guy) beating a man to death with his bare hands
  • People having all of their joints broken, then threaded and suspended from theater ceiling rafters, so that they could be used like life-size marionettes to put on the most fucked up puppet show just … ever

That last one isn’t hyperbole; It’s episode 10 of season 8.

Not to mention the avalanche of boring, run of the mill stabbings, shootings, strangulations and rapes, or the fact that to keep the audience from becoming numb to these horrors, every few episodes the Criminal Minds writers freshen it up by making the victims children.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not asking you to stop airing it; I LOVE THIS SHOW! I just can’t seem to work through the logic that convinced you that excising the three most benign expletives in the English language from 43 minutes of the most insanely depraved forms of cruelty imaginable is somehow performing a community service. Because unless your goal is to turn impressionable, at risk children into serial human predators with the cleanest vocabularies outside of a Please Pass The Manners graduation ceremony …

WHAT YOU’RE DOING MAKES NO FUCKING SENSE!

You’re totally fine with subjecting your audience to creepy-as-all-get-out Billy Flynn (Tim Curry) raping a woman and forcing her to watch as he executes her husband, then raping and murdering another woman while forcing her young son to watch, then murdering a police detective in front of the detective’s preteen daughter before kidnapping her. It’s not until the end of the episode that you finally feel compelled to step in when heroic FBI agent, and first team all world man-candy, Derrick Morgan (Shemar Moore) promises, “We will find you, you sick son of a [AUDIO DROP OUT]”?

REALLY?

I want to believe that you mean well, but for a network that is supposedly all about the Arts and the Entertainment (seriously, it’s right there in your name), your censorship, and the values that seem to guide its practice, are ridiculously backward.

Here’s a little exercise to help you set better priorities in the future. Which of the following talks would you rather have with your second grader:

“Just because Derrick Morgan called Billy Flynn a ‘sick son of a bitch’ doesn’t mean it’s appropriate for you to say it to a school teacher that gave you extra homework.”

OR …

“Just because Danny Murphy choked his seven year old brother, Kyle, to death by jamming model airplane parts down his throat after Kyle broke Danny’s model plane in episode 21 of season 4 doesn’t mean it’s okay for you to deal the same kind of justice to your siblings.”

Even if you are SO damaged that you relish the idea of taking on the advanced parenting challenges of scenario #2, I imagine that conversation is going to go a lot like this:

    Child: But Danny Murphy did it!

    Parent: Yes, he did, but Danny was a sick little son of a [AUDIO DROP OUT].

    Child: I don’t understand, your mouth was moving but I couldn’t hear the last word of your sentence …

What I’m trying to say is, if you’re going to run a show during weekend mornings and afternoons that simply can’t exist without less visually graphic but still Game-Of-Thrones-level inhumanity, you’ve lost any sort of moral high ground that would allow you to be outraged by the occasional “ass”, “bitch” or “damn” being said on your air.

Thanks for listening, and thanks for all of the profanity-free puppet-related nightmares!

Tony

cp-160722

Tony Marion is a writer and filmmaker who splits time between Lancaster, PA and Baltimore, MD. He lives for the work of Descendents (the band), Chuck Palahniuk and Rian Johnson. Check out the digital embodiment of procrastination he calls his website here.

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